Amsterdam hardly ever makes the grade in anyone’s hit list of Europe’s top romantic cities.
Paris, Rome, Venice, even London are likely to leave the Dutch capital in the dust.
Some frown on Amsterdam’s links with red light sleaze and its marijuana coffee shops.
Others may think Amsterdam just a little too dull for a decent city break.
Whatever the reasons, when a romantic weekend city break is on the cards, Amsterdam rarely turns up trumps. What a pity!
Amsterdam is not all cannabis and carnality. It is also a gem of a city-break destination, with something to appeal to everyone.
Nowhere else can one find such a satisfying mix of liberal madness and high-brow culture.
It’s quite incredible that despite all the potential for controversy, Amsterdam rarely attracts criticism and continues to appeal to people of all ages, from all walks of life.
So what makes Amsterdam a good pick for a weekend away?
First is the ease of getting there. Schiphol Airport has been voted one of the finest in Europe, and its high speed trains will whisk you the 14 km distance into the city centre every 15 minutes.
Then there is the ease of getting around. Amsterdam has excellent tram and bus services, and the canal cruises take in all the cultural holiday hot spots as well as the beautiful byways. The Amsterdam city centre is physically small and relatively quiet, with many streets traffic-free and bicycles the transport of choice for most locals.
It’s a great place to wander around and so easy to take in the top cultural sights and treasures.
This is the home of both Rembrandt and Van Gogh, two giants of the art world, and there are museums dedicated to both. Most art museums are located in the Museumplein (Museum Quarter), which is also home to the majestic Concertgebouw, renowned world-wide for its jaw-dropping acoustics, and locally for the free classical concerts.
A pleasant stroll down the exclusive P.C. Hooftstraat, Van Baerlestraat or Pieter Cornelisz will take the you to the doors of some the region’s most up market couture houses.
If you are interested in seeking out some of the natural beauties of Amsterdam, the Amsterdam Hortus has to be high up your list.
Established as a small herb garden in 1638, this oasis of calm features almost 7000 plants, many of them rare, including a cactus which is said to be almost 2000 years old.
If you have an avid interest in history, an Amsterdam city break wouldn’t be complete without visiting the recently upgraded Museum van het Leven (Museum of Life).
This fascinating exhibition tells the story of life on Earth using stunningly creative visual effects.
But high art and history is not all that’s available in this cosmopolitan bowl of multicultural delights.
There’s the infamous Red Light District, where scantily clad girls parade for custom behind neon-lit windows. And there are the notorious coffee shops where cannabis is openly sold and smoked as customers sip their cappuccinos.
And for those who like nothing better than to wander, Amsterdam is a weekend city break destination like no other. One of the city’s most popular attractions is the diamond factory tour. The Gassan diamond polishing factory in the city centre is itself considered a jewel in the city’s crown. Factory tours are free but you should book in advance to be sure of a place.
You get to see where diamonds are found and how they are classified, cut and polished. It all makes buying diamonds in Amsterdam a very special occasion for any visitor.
This city has been a world centre for the diamond trade since the 16th century. Much of the Amsterdam diamond trade moved to Antwerp in the wake of Nazi atrocities.
But the Amsterdam diamond trade has prospered again in recent years thanks to the city’s large and growing tourist trade.
Classy diamonds may be a trifle too expensive for most pockets but there is nothing like window shopping and even trying on some of the most dazzling jewellery to be found in the world.
To soak up some of the city’s ambience, visit the street theatre in Dam Square, open air concerts in the huge city centre, Vondeldpark, and one of the best zoos in Western Europe.
The quaintly gabled 17th and 18th century houses are also a Dutch delight, as are the cosy rings of picturesque tree-lined canals than circle the whole city with their cobbled canal-side streets full of boutiques, curio shops and book stalls.
Amsterdam defies its northerly location with an alfresco street cafe society that cashes in on every glimpse of sun.
Add a wide and varied ethnic mix and you have the recipe for an astonishing range of cuisine, with virtually every international taste catered for, from Thai and Turkish to Icelandic and Indonesian. Add a dash of Amsterdam’s home-grown speciality pancake restaurants, that offer an endless choice of pizza-sized pancakes and omelettes, and you are guaranteed some fabulous meals.
Enjoying Amsterdam city breaks has never been easier. There is a great choice of cheap flights to Amsterdam from most UK airports and a wide range of hotels from luxury to budget accommodation. You can even book a room on a floating hotel or a canal boat.
Book online and open the gates to discount airfares and cheap flights plus many holiday hotel packages that offer cheap breaks in Amsterdam.
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Andrea’s article was orginally published on: www.freetravelarticles.com.